New Zealand, as small country on the outer fringe of the globe, faces special challenges in improving or even maintaining our relative standard of living.
Our small domestic economy cannot provide enough opportunities for growth in businesses that in turn drive wealth creation and improved standards of living for all. And our relative isolation means locally based enterprises require significant competitive advantages if they are to be successful globally.
We have found some of these, in the primary sector and in niche design and technology based businesses, for example. But we can do more.
Imagine New Zealand as one of the global hubs for biotechnology, as an Italy of the south for women’s fashion, as world leader in outdoor fashion, as leading innovator in niche technology solutions, or as global leader in environment management. All these are possibilities.
The world is moving in our favour. The shift to services and know-ledge-based industries weakens the barrier of distance. Exporting intellectual property doesn’t require container ship. The rising affluence of China and India opens up new market destinations for higher added-value products and services. The Pacific Rim will dominate the world economy in the coming decades and we are part of it. But we must think differently if we want to win in the world.
At business level we must challenge ourselves to have greater ambition. Why not aspire to be global leader?
42 Below is an outstanding role model. It doesn’t matter that the brand is being sold to global company. The brand will continue to be identified with New Zealand – bold, brash, innovative, savvy – all characteristics of the new generation.
Peter Jackson and the Weta brand are other examples, helping cement New Zealand’s reputation for innovation and as generator of intellectual property.
We must also increase our level of engagement with the rest of the world. Overseas markets cannot be opened up from desk in New Zealand. Personal relationships matter, particularly in Asia, where our greatest opportunity lies. Lasting business relationships must be built from the very top and deepened down through the organisation.
Building physical properties is also essential. Our universities have achieved success attracting foreign students to study here but already this model is redundant in other countries. European and US universities have established physical campuses in Singapore, China and other Asian countries to capture market share locally. Why not us?
While the bulk of the vision and investment must come from business, governments also must play role. Some of the work of the New Zealand Institute is instructive here.
While we need level playing field and stable and relatively light handed regulatory framework to promote strong domestic competition, when it comes to winning on the world stage we need externally focused public policies that are competitive with other nations.
Successful small nations aggressively support their business community to be successful globally using heavily targeted assistance for exporters and inbound investment, aggressive promotion of their country, and tax policy.
We need to look after our own interests as no one else is. coordinated and focused approach based on vision of what we want the New Zealand economy to look like is needed. Elsewhere business and government are far more closely aligned around shared vision for success in the global economy.
What would that vision look like? New Zealand economy based on innovation, design, research and technology with leading global brands; an attractive destination for knowledge-based industries; integrated into the major Pacific Rim economies; and where entrepreneurship is recognised and rewarded. Imagine that.

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